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Mike Gordon: Moss
As the title of the final song on his new studio album suggests, Mike Gordon is ever the “Idea” man. Ever since 2003’s Inside In, the Phish bassist has distinguished himself through his solo recordings outside that group by consistently delivering music that is fanciful and nuanced. The same holds true for Moss, his third such effort, which may not be the unified work of The Green Sparrow (one of 2008’s most underrated releases) but like all winning albums, reveals itself anew with each listen, even as its melodies have long since planted themselves in the listener’s cranium.
Gordon, who produced Moss with his longtime collaborator Jared Slomoff, places himself at the fore. His vocals have never been in finer form, and on songs such as “Horizon Line” he harmonizes with himself to great effect. Similarly, his bass is mixed up front and far from a supporting instrument, often leads the playful charge.
Moss opens with “Can’t Stand Still,” which is as bright and winsome a track as Gordon has ever allowed himself to record. The momentum continues through the first half of Moss, which also showcases Gordon’s varied supporting cast. Scott Murawski’s guitar pushes the swelling “What Things Seem” while Marie Claire’s backing vocals energize “Fire From A Stick.” Phish keyboard player Page McConnell also animates a few tracks, including “Fire,” where he leads a buoyant jam into the outro fade (a slightly frustrating conceit which occurs on two of the first three songs, as if the party’s leaving the station without the listener).
By the time Gordon reaches “The Void,” the album’s seventh selection, though, the pace has slackened. While the second half of the release offers the well-sculpted often subtle sounds that have marked Gordon’s career solo, this more abstract and ethereal side breaks from the initial mood. Still, if the album has a whole lacks a certain unity and flow, its best songs linger and reward, fulfilling the promise of the album title, as Moss’s filaments do indeed grow.
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